RMGA SEMINAR: "ALL the RIGHT STUFF". . .
RMGA's Seminar "All the Right Stuff" was held at the Mount Vernon Country Club (Golden). Thanks, Norma Bovee, Education Chair, for overseeing the Seminar and preparing notes on the first two sessions. "Thanks" Nancy Brueggeman, for taking/preparing notes on the remaining sessions. Thanks to all "presenters" for their efforts preparing and presenting.
"Top 3 Reasons to Hire Me": Each person had 30 seconds to introduce themselves and give reasons why a DMC would want to hire them. "So You Think You Can Guide". With chairs placed in motor coach configuration, simulating a tour, a slide show of ten Denver attractions at 2-minute intervals were projected on a screen at the front. Three RMGA judges were seated to observe.
Terryl Lofgren, the first contestant, was really good at giving a "bad" Denver tour. After her tour, she was asked to leave the room. Coach passengers (pax) and the judges were asked to critique her tour. On Terryl's return, judges reviewed what she did:
The Pros were:
She was NOT selected as Guide, she "boo-hoo...d."
Ed Weising, 2nd contestant, gave the same City Tour. At its conclusion, he was asked to leave so pax and judges could critique the tour.
The Pros were:
Great tour--chosen by the judges to be "So You Think You Can Guide" winner.
A "State of the Industry" Panel covered 4 areas of tourism industry: General overview, given by Sid Wilson of A Private Guide. Sid spoke about his business which provides group tours/event transportation services--he's on VISIT DENVER Board, and other tourism boards.
Areas where Sid's company can work better w/ RMGA: Coordinate coach and passenger details if you get referral for a tour. Sid works with IGA and ITMI to hire tour guides/managers. Works with Kent Rice, the new Director, Arts and Venues, City & County of Denver, who has overseen merger of division with Denver Office/Cultural Affairs to being part of Office/Economic Development
Docent Mary Thompson addressed "Volunteering"--Way to learn City, sharpen skills--friendly demeanor/willingness to help. In Westward expansion, US depended on land, wealth, adventure. Many Denver docents, storytellers giving story amidst background of history.
Jim Watson of VISIT DENVER (VC) represented the major tourism organizations promoting Denver; strong convention services, promotes self worldwide. Visitor Centers located at 16th & California St., and 5th level/DIA. Include gift shops, Ticketmaster connection, Colorado & Front Range attractions, relocation guides. They see a lot of visitors during winter months from Southern Hemisphere. 200 - 800 people visit Center daily; with requests for same-day tours, Need step-on guides--an area where coordination w/RMGA would be helpful. 25% inquiries are new "relocates" VC has listing of bus routes, BUT you must go to Center to pick on up information.
The Visitor Center has connection information to: Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Boulder, mountains; Civic Center Park to Cherry Creek Mall, 17th Street to City Park, Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo; downtown Golden.
Natallia Fodemski has own business (Colorado Personal Tour Guide) at Colorado Springs--is group step-on guide, private tour guide. Has commercial car insurance for private tours, vehicle registered with State. She works with business travelers, families, couples, individuals. Seeks clients with two websites, Facebook, Twitter; member of many Colorado Springs organizations. Offers packaged tours: 1/2 day, full day, & week-ends. Uses contract people when needed; researching commercial insurance for contractors and general liability insurance coverage. She is fluent in several languages, currently seeking Spanish-speaking guide. She suggested we NOT take visitors to top of Pikes Peak on first day in Colorado.
Lunch time was accompanied by the game "Denver Jeopardy"; prizes: chocolates and mini-candy bars! Networking and conversation!
Best Practices Roundtable Discussions on Pricing, Affiliations, Tips and Insurance. Larry Ralston addressed Pricing. Suggested that guides price their tours at going rate--don't undercut--think about "Retail price". DMCs want the Best, willing to pay going rate.
Barbara Foos referred to RMGA Affiliations. RMGA is a member of several and needs to be part of the professional tourism community. RMGA receives information keeping membership abreast of current trends. RMGA belongs to:
Barbara reminded us: You should delete any unknown online requests they could be "spam". Generally, DMC looks for destination first, then tour guide.
She suggested asking ourselves: Why Am I In The Tour Industry? As member, you need to attend other activities offered to network business. Also: when responding to DMC, use RMGA connection. Brevity required; note your profile on RMGA website--limited to 150 words.
Tipping is often a problem. Norma Bovee told us that tipping has been around since 16th Century--then to Insure Promptness! Tip is a cultural term, i.e., tip in Japan, considered an insult. In USA, tipping a compensation tool. USA rules even uncertain.
How do we clarify this as Professionals? Sid's proposals: use terminology saying if service warrants, please provide gratuity. DMC generally builds tips into fee. Certain groups do not tip. Sometimes envelopes provided for tour manager/guide and coach driver on OTR tour. DMCs put policy in general information sent each passenger. Most Americans tip both coach driver and guide. What about special events such as a corporate meeting? Both may be tipped. Tips become critical if event after hours or in evening.
If the situation is still unclear? ASK!
What about insurance? OTR Tour Manager Mary Bendelow addressed it this way:
Gaye Buzbee-Jacobs noted she uses waivers/emergency forms--may not hold up in court but does give her legal due diligence. If working with a concierge, Concierges do due diligence (name/address/emergency contact, photo) covering event.
Several members shared their insights into Guiding whether step-on, docent, tour manager, or in related area. Jody Calton's first try at being guide is a State Capitol docent. She studied brochure, took test, shadowed tours, then on her own. Her practices include:
One area Larry Ralston works as a Step-On Guide. He often has people who want quick 1/2 day City tour, difficult to do on short notice. RMGA & Denver need to find way to do immediately 1/2 day and full day tours. Noted 40,000-60,000 walk thru Capitol each month. Convention group tours mostly pre-packaged. Often on-board tour manager is official contact for company--they are in charge.
When DMC asks your advice, they're seeing you as professional. This is "sales work" for you, DMC & VISIT DENVER. It's another reason to call you again. In general, City Tours will cost DMCs for four hours, even though request for less hours.
Driver/Guide Tom Jensen, works for Colorado Sightseer, Inc. He drives minivan (4-6 passenger) or short coach for up to 15 passenger. With 15 or fewer passengers, he doesn't need a CDL license. Works 1/2, full-day tours: City/Foothills/Pikes Peak/Mt. Evans/Loveland Pass. He's a 1099 and independent contractor employee. Who is your most difficult passenger? Those who don't ask questions!
Mary Bendelow, Over The Road (OTR), Tour Director/Guide, her trips are often 18 days: for commentary on tours. Need to learn to pace self so you won't run out of things to tell; don't exhaust self. Passengers are "family" for the next 18 days; you need to get their stories: why they're on this tour. Very important to confirm and reconfirm details, OR reconfirm by e-mail. Learn group dynamics: why there? Some reasons include: don't want to be home, no longer travel internationally. Tour manager needs to talk with each passenger on the trip. Their indecision; want leader to solve their problems. They want choices made for excursions, some slow walkers, some fast walkers, some just "sitters". Tour manager needs to monitor who talks to whom, sits alone. Mary uses name tags; some Tour Director Guides do not. No two tours are the same, even if visiting the same places.
Mary's analogy: tour is like bicycle--back wheel is the mechanics and front wheel fun stuff they remember. Mary uses seating rotation chart; tells passengers that seating is non-negotiable as "tour operator requires" seating changes, rotation. This allows the group to meet someone new across aisle to talk with. Generally, company policy has name tags; does require seat rotation. Some companies, smaller groups on large coach, sit where they like.
Barbara Johnson is an Over The Road (OTR) Tour Manager. Attended IGA; does mostly student tours. She has worked for Smithsonian Student Tours. Currently Barbara works for Cosmos (Globus) which caters: mostly older people from UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel. Uses index card system: learn names/home town of passengers, to remember them. Check list helpful: to remember names, etc. Gives each passenger a packet with information form to fill out: listing their name, address, physical constraints (can't do stairs, etc.). Information on sheet helps passenger is not share. Barbara receives a 52 page technical outline for trip. Can rearrange the itinerary some if weather change; tour managers in same area share information on road conditions, etc. Barbara uses blogs; stressed not to get behind on paper work. Coach driver best friend on tour but the Tour Manager is still in charge! Barbara works fall tours consisting of 10-day tours thru eight New England states--primarily fall foliage tours. Many other activities: include whale watching, ferry boat rides, clambakes, lobstering, lighthouse tours. Cosmos website already has 2012 itineraries listed. Above all, don't lose your sense of humor!
The seminar ended around 3:45--right on time!!
Thank you Norma Bovee, Education Chair, and Nancy Brueggeman.